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Seminary Provides 'Soul Care' to Community

For 12 years, Eastern Mennonite Seminary has offered spiritual direction, free of charge, to seminary and university students, faculty, and staff as well as community members, helping hundreds become aware of the presence of God in their lives.

Congregational Resource Center
The Congregational Resource Center at EMS provides a place where people can learn more about spiritual formation and receive spiritual direction.

According to Wendy Miller, director of the Summer Institute for Spiritual Formation and assistant professor of spiritual formation at EMS, spiritual direction can help people pay attention to God’s presence and activity in their lives and the lives of others. It is, in short, "soul care," grounded in the understanding that God invites us to be reconciled to Him, ourselves, each other, and to His creation.

In 2004-05 alone, more than 70 community members, students, and faculty and staff received guidance and spiritual direction thanks to the program, and today, demand is so great that there is a waiting list.

“Such growth in the number of requests for spiritual direction calls for prayerful reflection, collaborative discernment, and some creative initiative," says Miller. "As a seminary, EMS attends both to the formation of persons for ministry, and seeks to be a vital presence in the Harrisonburg and surrounding community. The ministry of spiritual direction sustains both."

One way to accommodate the increased demand for spiritual direction was a recent partnership between Miller, Kevin Clark, adjunct professor of spiritual formation, and Congregational Resource Center Director Jill Landis. It was Landis' job to create in the resource center a place where people can learn more about and receive spiritual direction.

Landis is excited about the partnership. "It's an opportunity for us to help those searching for direction. It’s also a great chance for the resource center to offer resources beyond books, videos and other multimedia materials," she says.

In addition to individual spiritual care, each summer EMS offers a Summer Institute for Spiritual Formation. Designed to restore the soul of the church leader and other servants of God, it offers an unhurried and spacious rhythm of worship, classroom, and experiential learning.

The theme of this summer's program is "Restoring the soul of the church leader; caring for the soul of the church" and courses include: "A Spirituality of Hope in Contexts of Despair;" "Spiritual Formation in the Congregation;" and seminars on "Blue Collar Spirituality" and "Spiritual Direction: Integrating Multiple Stories in Diverse Contexts."

This year’s summer institute runs from June 13-24. For more information, review the Summer Institute for Spiritual Formation section of the web site or contact Wendy Miller at (540) 432-4273 or .